This book goes beyond providing logical analysis to these questions. It is typical of the style the author adopts in his other profound titles for a spiritual wayfarer ‘Soaring to the Only Beloved’ (a brief treatise on the presence of the heart in prayer) and ‘Manifestations of the All-Merciful’ (a commentary on a daily supplication of the Holy Month of Ramadan), published by the Islamic Education Board of the World Federation.
Such an approach is ideal for Mubalighi-n, proactive ‘Urafa-’ and the youth, for it combines beautifully the theme with lexical origins, A-ya-t from the Holy Qur’a-n , aha-di-th of the A’immah (‘a), mystical narrations, poetry, fada-il of the Ahlu’l Bayt (‘a) as well as touch of historical accounts relevant to the subject.
We live in a time when people feel an urgent need to examine the spiritual dimensions of their lives. The materialistic tendencies which have dominated so much of the modern age are beginning to lose their lustre. People are beginning to realize that their deepest needs cannot be satisfied by consumer products. This book together with a series of related books can go a long way to quench the thirst of spiritual wayfarers and be a catalyst in guiding the traveler towards ‘The Host’.
IEB is indebted to Sheikh Muhammad Khalfan who is also an active member of the Editorial Advisory Committee (EAC) that was recently established by the World Federation to ensure high quality, sustainable and effective publications.
Sheikh Muhammad Khalfan studies at the Seminary in Qum specialising in philosophy and theoretical gnosis. Besides the three books mentioned above, he has also translated various articles on philosophical issues for the Transcendent Philosophy Journal (published by the Islamic Centre London) as well as the introduction of the Tafsi-r al-Qur’a-n al-Kari-m of Mulla- Sadra (written by the esteemed research scholar Agha- Bida-r Far) for the same institution.
Islamic Education Board
The World Federation of KSIMC
Ramada-n 1426 ah
The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:
...وَهُوَ شَهْرٌ دُعِيــتُمْ فِيهِ إِلـى ضِيَافَةِ اللٌّهِ...
“…It is a month in which you have been called to the banquet of Allāh…1”
Whenever we speak of diyāfah, we refer to the invitation commonly known and highly encouraged in Islam. Our traditions are replete with emphasis on inviting the believers and feeding them in the way of Allāh (SwT). In fact a guest is also commonly known as ‘the beloved of God’. So much emphasis has Islam laid upon such invitation, that there is a prophetic tradition that says:
أَلضَّيْفُ دَلِيلُ الْجَنَّةِ.
“A guest is a guide to Paradise.2”
In other words, serving a guest is so rewarding that it leads one to Paradise. This dictum also informs us that our hospitality should be such that it should qualify for such a reward. In other words, our invitation should not involve things that instead of making us closer to Allāh (SwT), separate us from His neighborhood.
In another tradition narrated from the Holy Prophet (s), ‘disliking a guest’ is equated to disliking Allāh (SwT):
...إِنَّّ مَنْ أَبْغَضَ الضَّيْفَ فَقَدْ أَبْغَضَ اللٌّهَ، وَمَنْ أَبْغَضَ اللٌّهَ أَبْغَضَهُ اللٌّهُ...
“…surely whosoever hates a guest, hates Allāh, and whosoever hates Allāh, Allāh [likewise] Hates him…”3
Those who assume a Divine spirit always love guests. One of the most outstanding prophets of Allāh well-known for his great fondness of serving guests is Prophet Ibrāhīm (‘a). History tells us that he would not eat any of his meals until he found a guest to eat with. At times he would have to travel one or two miles away just for this purpose. Due to his great fondness for guests, he was called Abū Adyāf. Imām al-Sādiq (‘a) is reported to have said: ‘Indeed Ibrāhīm was Abā Adyāf (lit. father of guests); and whenever he had no guest, he would go out searching for them4.
He is also known to be the first Prophet of Allāh5 to have served a guest. Imām ‘Alī (‘a) is reported to have said:
كَانَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ أَوَّلَ مَنْ أَضَافَ الضَّيْفَ...
“Prophet Ibrāhīm (‘a) was the first to host a guest…”6
Perhaps the reason why the Holy Prophet (s) and the infallible Imāms of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) highly encouraged the believers to invite each other for iftār in the Holy month of Ramadān was to adopt a Divine Attitude in themselves: In the same way as He has invited His believers to His Banquet and venerated them as well, His followers should adopt the same attitude. A very important point to bear in mind is that every invitation should accompany veneration (ikrām). In several traditions the phrase ‘ikrām al-dayf’ has often been mentioned. This means that no ordinary entertainment is encouraged. One must struggle to observe ‘ikrām’ (lit. veneration). The Holy Qur’ān alluding to this trait of Prophet Ibrāhīm (‘a) says:
هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ ضَيْفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْمُكْرَمِينَ
“Did you receive the story of Abraham’s honored guests?”7
Some exegetes of Qur’a-n allude to the fact that the adjective ‘al-mukrami-n’ in the above verse possibly signifies that the guests of Ibra-hi-m were honored by him and hence are qualified as ‘honored’8.
Veneration should be manifested in all the levels of the invitation. We should therefore identify ‘the etiquette of the intention of our invitation’, ‘the method of invitation’, ‘the banquet served in the invitation’, ‘the method of serving the banquet’, ‘where should the meal be served’, etc. Islam has the answers to all these queries.
Veneration in the phases of every invitation, however, does not mean that one should overspend to ensure that the best meal is served. It rather means to serve within the bounds of the shari-’ah according to one’s capacity. It is noteworthy that when some of the poor companions of the Holy Prophet (s) asked him whether they would be deprived of the reward of invitation if they cannot bear the expenses of hosting a mu’min brother in this holy month, the Holy Prophet (s) said: ‘Protect yourself from Hell Fire even with a piece of date or a glass of water’, thus indicating that it is not necessary for one to serve what is beyond one’s capacity.
This however should not lead one who can afford to serve a decent meal to decide that he can be the host of so many believers by distributing dates in the mosque, and thereby earn much more reward than if he were to call one mu’min brother and serve a decent meal at home. In short, one should serve according to his financial capacity.
One of the most significant attitudes we must adopt is to create a meaningful environment in our invitations. Not only should physical food be served, intellectual and spiritual food should also be served. Able speakers on significant issues that deal with self-reform or reforming the society can be invited to serve such spiritual meals. It is then that we may be able to claim to have adopted a Divine attitude in this holy month. In fact, the great scholars of gnosis have clearly stated that ‘the Divine Banquet’ to which the believers have been called in the Holy month of Ramada-n is ‘a spiritual’ repast.
In order to capture an accurate concept of the relation between the host and the guest, it would be useful for us to have a cursory glance over how lexicographers define this relation:
1. al-Iqba-l, vol. 1, pg. 26
2. Biha- r al-Anwa-r, vol. 75, pp. 460-461.
3. al-Mahajjat al-Bayda-’, vol. 3, pg. 32.
4. Tafsi-r Nu-r al-Thaqalayn, vol. 1, pg. 555.
5. It should be noted that ‘first’ here is in terms of time. Otherwise, it is the Muhammadan light in terms of the existential hierarchy, who by Divine permission, is the first host. This again is in terms of the world of ‘contingent existence’. Otherwise there is none save Alla-h Who is and was and will be the Host, and ‘a second’ to such a Host cannot be comprehended at all.
6. Biha- r al-Anwa-r, vol. 12, pg. 4.
7. Holy Qur’a-n, 15:24
8. See Tafsi-r Majma‘ al-Baya-n, vol. 9, pg. 23 and Tafsi-r al-Kashsha-f, vol. 4, pg. 401.
Dayf (lit. inclination) is an infinitive noun of the intransitive verbs da-fa, yadi-fu- (lit. he inclined, he is inclining)1; and a guest is known as dayf because he inclines to the host as he alights to be his guest2.
The word di-ya-fah likewise is an infinitive noun, and it signifies ‘the entertainment of a guest or guests’. And the word ‘al-ida-fah’ is conventionally employed in grammar when a noun is adjoined to another. Some authoritative lexicographers such as Ja-r Alla-h al-Zamakhshari- say that ‘a guest is known to be dayf because he is adjoined to the family and fed with them’3.
Such linkage however is voluntary and attributive (i’tiba-ri-) and not haqi-qi- (real). In sharp contrast to this, the relation of a guest of Alla-h is such that he not only is existentially linked to the Him but is ‘the link’ (‘ayn al-rabt) itself. This is because he has no independent existence, or accurately speaking, no existence of his own. Whatever he is, together with his belongings, all exist and subsist by the volition of Alla-h (SwT). The following verse of the Qur’a-n alludes to this reality:
...الا ترى أنّ كلّ وجود عين التعلق بالمبدء وليس إضافة مقولية، وللمبدء أضافة إشراقية على جميع ما سواه…
“…Don’t you see that every entity is ‘sheer linkage to the Origin’ (‘ayn al-ta’alluq bi al-Mabda’) and not categorically linked, and everything other than the Origin is His emanational link….”5
In simpler terms, unlike the human beings, where the host, the guest, as well as the banquet served to the host are apparently6 independent, there is no ‘independent existence’ for other than Allāh (SwT).
Therefore, He is the Host of the guest, who is served hospitably with contingent existence and subsistence7.
The relation is rather subtler than that, for there can be no two independent existents ever conceived. The guest together with what he or she is provided with is nothing but Divine action. The Holy Qur’ān says:
وَاللٌّهُ خَلَقَكُمْ وَمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
“And God has created you and whatever you do.8”
Another highly significant point to bear in mind is that this kind of hospitality is essentially continual. Because of the utter existential poverty of the human being, he always needs to be provided with his contingent existence9 and its perfections, and thus is always a guest of the Necessary Being. Both the philosophers as well as the mystics (‘urafā’) establish that every entity requires Divine Grace every moment.
Perhaps the following supplications allude to this subtlety:
1. On Thursday nights we are taught to recite the following ten times:
يَا دَائِمَ الْفَضْلِ عَلـى الْبَرِيَّةِ…
“O One who continually confers abundance on the creation…10”
2. In the supplication of Jawshan al-Kabīr we address Almighty Allāh as:
...يَا دَائِمَ اللُّطْفِ...
“…O Ever Benevolent…11”
3. On Eid day, in one of the supplications we are taught to say:
يَا دَائِمَ الْمَعْرُوفِ…
“O One who always does good…12”
4. And in one of the recommended supplications on the 18th Day of every month we are taught to address Almighty Allāh as:
يَا دَائِمَ الْجُوْدِ وَالْكَرَمِ…
“O Ever Bountiful & Generous …13”
Some Jews, as narrated in the Holy Qur’a-n, in their utter ignorance and disrespect would say ‘God’s Hands are tied’, thus implying the independence of the creation from the Creator14, an idea later adopted by a group of ignorant Mu’tazilites who relinquishing the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) deviated from the right path. The reality, however, as has been established in the relevant texts, is that the relation between the cause and effect is not like the relation of a builder and a building, both of which can exist independently. Rather, the effect always needs the cause to exist.
Having considered the aforesaid introduction, we can classify ‘Divine Invitation’ (diya-fah ila-hiyyah) into two kinds:
1. al-Diya-fah al-‘A-mmah (The General Banquet) 2. al-Diya-fah al-Kha-sah (The Specific Banquet)
1. It is also employed to mean, ‘he alighted to be a guest’. For example, when it is said ‘adi-fuhu’ it means ‘I alighted at his abode as a guest.’
2. Mufrada-tu Alfa-z al-Qur’a-n, pg. 513.
3. Lane, EW Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon.
4. Holy Qur’a-n, 35:15.
5. al-Manzu-mah, vol. 2, pg. 468.
6. We say ‘apparently’ because ‘the humanly host, guest, as well as the banquet’ all come under contingent existence, which has no dependence whatsoever. Hence in reality there isn’t and can never be any host in the independent sense of the word other than Alla-h (SwT).
7. This can be understood by trying to appreciate the relation between the Primary Cause and every dependent being in the universe. The relation is not like the human builder and his building, who after having built a beautiful edifice, is able to live independent of the edifice and has no existential control over the same, nor does the building need him to exist. If he were to die, the building would still remain erect.
8. Holy Qur’a-n, 37:96. This is one of the most explicit verses that endorses the belief accepted by the Ima-mites who neither believe that they are coercively driven by Alla-h (SwT) in every action they do, nor believe that they have complete independence in their action. They rather believe that whatever they do is volitional, but entirely by Alla-h’s (SwT) power. Note the subtlety that while the action is attributed to the doer (ta‘malu-n), Alla-h (SwT) says that He is the One who Creates the action chosen by His servant.
9. Contingent beings are those that do not exist essentially nor are they impossible to exist. Therefore in order for them to exist, they always need a cause. All the created beings are such.
10. Mafa-ti-h al-Jina-n, vol. 1, pg. 33.
11. Al-Balad al-Ami-n, vol. 1, pg. 405.
12. al-Iqba-l, vol. 2, pg. 212.
13. Al-‘Adad al-Qawiyyah, vol. 1, pg. 163.
14. This refers to verse 5:63 of the Holy Qur’a-n. Ima-m Khumayni- has a beautiful note on this issue in his commentary on tradition no. 31 [On the Indescribability of God] of his Forty Traditions.
This refers to the Divine banquet that every human being enjoys. Rather every created entity seeks advantage from its provisions. Every entity, both in its existence, as well as subsistence needs the All-Sufficient. Therefore, he always enjoys from the provisions of the All-Merciful. The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:
...إِنَّ مَنْ فِي الدُّنْـيَا ضَيْفٌ، وَمَا فِي أَيْدِيهِمْ عَارِيَةٌ...
“…Surely the inhabitants of the earth are guests and whatever they have at their disposal are loans…1”
Similarly, Imām ‘Alī (‘a) says in one of his sermons:
عِبَادَ اللٌّهِ إِنَّكُمْ وَمَا تَأْمُلُونَ- مِنْ هٌذِهِ الدُّنْـيَا أَثْوِيَاءُ مُؤَجَّلُونَ.
“O servants of Allāh, surely your beings and what you aspire from this world are guests (athwiyā’)2 for whom a time for departure has been specified…3”
Therefore the human beings, rather every dependent entity, is a guest of Allāh (SwT). Appreciating this, al-Bayātī in his Adab al-Diyāfah says:
ألضيافة في الدين خُلق من أخلاق الله سبحانه وتعالى الذي استضاف مخلوقاته في عالم الوجود بالمعنى الواسع للكلمة. وهو يستضيف عباده كل يوم في مملكته. ويدعوهم إلى طيب أرزاقه...
“Inviting a guest in religion is a trait among the traits of Allāh, the Immaculate and Exalted, Who entertains His creatures in the world of existence in the broad sense of the word. He caters for His servants every day in His Dominion, and invites them to His pleasant sustenance…4”
This kind of invitation is in reality a manifestation of Allāh’s All-comprehensive Mercy (al-Rahmah al-Rahmāniyyah), about which the Holy Qur’ān says:
وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ
“…but My mercy embraces all things…”5
1. Biha- r al-Anwa-r, vol. 77, pg. 187.
2. Athwiya-’ is the plural of thawi- which in the Arabic is ‘a guest’ (Ibn Maytham al-Bahra-ni-, Ikhtiya-ru Misba-h al-Sa-liki-n, pg. 287.
3. Nahj al-Bala-ghah, sermon 129.
4. Adab al-Siya-fah, pg. 13.
5. Holy Qur’a-n, 7:156.
This kind of invitation takes place on specific occasions. It manifests Alla-h’s (SwT) special Mercy which despite given to all, is accepted and benefited from, only by the believers. This kind of Mercy is also known as al-rahmah al-rahi-miyyah, which comes in the first verse of Su-rat al-Hamd: Bismilla-h al-Rahma-n al-Rahi-m. Following are some noteworthy extensions (masa-di-q) of the special Divine banquet:
1. Special invitation in the Holy month of Ramada-n
The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:
...وَهُوَ شَهْرٌ دُعِيـتُمْ فِيهِ إِلـى ضِيَافَةِ اللٌّهِ...
“…It is a month in which you have been called to the Banquet of Allāh…”1
Imām Muhammad al-Bāqir (‘a) is reported to have said:
...شَهْرُ رَمَضَانِ شَهْرُ رَمَضَانِ وَالصَّائِمُوْنَ فِيـهِ أَضْـيَافُ اللٌّهِ...
“…The month of Ramadān is the month of Ramadān, and those who are fasting therein are the guests of Allāh…2”
2. Special invitation during Hajj and ‘Umrah
Ima-m al-Sa-diq (‘a) is reported to have said:
إِنَّ ضَيْفَ اللٌّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ رَجُلٌ حَجَّ وَاعْتَمَرَ، فَهُوَ ضَيْفُ اللٌّهِ حَتّى يَرْجِعَ إِلـى مَنْزِلِهِ...
“Surely the guest of Allāh is the one who performs hajj and ‘umrah until he returns back to his house…3”
3. Special Invitation during Prayer (sala-h)
The above tradition of Ima-m al-Sa-diq (‘a) mentions the second kind of guest as:
...وَرَجُلٌ كَانَ فِي صَلاَتِهِ، فَهُوَ فِي كَـنْفِ اللٌّهِ حَتَّى يَنْصَرِفَ...
“…and one who is in his prayers, and thus under Divine protection, until he leaves his prayer…4”
Imām al-Sādiq (‘a) is also reported to have said:
مَنْ صَلَّى صَلاَةً فَرِيضَةً وَعَقَّبَ إِلـى أُخْرَى فَهُوَ ضَيْفُ اللٌّهِ، وَحَقٌّ عَلَى اللٌّهِ أَنْ يُكْرِمَ ضَيْفَهُ...
“Whosoever prays an obligatory prayer and follows it with another, then he is a guest of Allāh, and it is upon Allāh to venerate His guest…5”
Imām Hasan al-Mujtabā (‘a) was known to say the following whenever he would reach the door of the mosque:
إِلٌـهِي ضَيْفُكَ بِـبَابِكَ، يَا مُحْسِنُ قَدْ أَتَاكَ الْمُسِيءُ، فَتَجَاوَزْ عَنْ قَبِيحِ مَا عِنْدِي بِجَمِيلِ مَا عِنْدَك يَا كَرِيـمُ.
“O God, Your guest is at Your door; O Virtuous One, certainly the bad doer has come to you; so overlook the ugliness that I possess with the beauty that is with You, O Noble One.6”
This perhaps reveals that whenever one is in the mosque, one is in reality the special guest of Alla-h.
4. Special Invitation for those Obedient to Alla-h
Ibn Fahd al-Hilli- in his ‘Uddat al-Da-’i- narrates a sacred tradition (al-hadi-th al-qudsi-) in which Almighty Alla-h tells Prophet Da-wu-d (‘a) the following:
أَهْلُ طَاعَـتِي فِي ضِيَافَـتِي.
“The obedient people are My guests…7”
5. Special Invitation to the Rememberers of Alla-h
The Holy Prophet (s) in a sacred tradition is reported to have said:
وَإِنَّ اللٌّهَ سُبْحَانَهُ يَقُولُ أَهْلُ ذِكْرِي فِي ضِيَافَتِي...
“And surely Allāh, free is He from imperfections, Says: Those who remember Me are My guests….8”
6. Special Invitation to those who Study the Holy Qur’a-n in the Mosque
The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:
...مَا جَلَسَ قَوْمٌ فِي بَيْتٍ مِنْ بُـيُوتِ اللٌّهِ، يَدْرُسُونَ كِتَابَ اللٌّهِ، وَيَتَعَاطَوْنَهُ بَيْـنَهُمْ إِلاَّ كَانُوا أَضْـيَافَ اللٌّهِ تَعَالـى، وَأَظَلَّتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ بِأَجْنِحَتِهَا مَا دَامُوا فِيهِ، حَتَّى يَخُوضُوا فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ...
“No people sit in a house from among the houses of Allāh studying the Book of Allāh and exchanging information between themselves, save that the Angels place a shade over them by their wings until they engage in talking about something else…9”
7. Special Invitation for one who Visits His Mu’min brother in the way of Alla-h
It is reported in a tradition that the Holy Prophet (s) said:
مَنْ زَارَ أَخَاهُ فِي بَيْتِهِ قَالَ اللٌّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ لَهُ: أَنْتَ ضَيْفِي وَزَائِرِي، عَلَيَّ قِرَاكَ، وَقَدْ أَوْجَبْتُ لَكَ الْجَنَّةَ بِحُبِّكَ إِيَّاهُ...
“Whosoever visits his brother at his home, (in the way of Allāh), Allāh, the Invincible and Majestic, Says: ‘You are My guest and My visitor, and I am bound to entertain you; and surely I have made Paradise obligatory on you through your love for him…10”
8. Special Invitation for the za-’ir (visitor) of Ima-m al-Husayn (‘a)
In one of the ziya-ra-t of Ima-m al-Husayn (‘a), we are taught to address him saying:
يَا أَبَا عَبْدِ اللٌّهِ: أَنَا ضَيْفُ اللٌّهِ وَضَيْفُكَ، وَجَارُ اللٌّهِ وَجَارُكَ، وَلِكُلِّ ضَيْفٍ وَجَارٍ قِرًى، وَقِرَايَ فِي هٌذَا الْوَقْتِ أَنْ تَسْأَلَ اللٌّهَ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالـى أَنْ يَرْزُقَنِي فَكَاكَ رَقَـبَتِي مِنَ النَّارِ، إِنَّهُ سَمِيعُ الدُّعَاءِ ...
“O Abā ‘Abdillāh, I am the guest of Allāh and your guest as well, and Allāh is my refuge; and you too are my refuge; and for every guest and seeker of refuge there is a banquet; please therefore make my banquet be at this moment that you ask Allāh to provide me with freedom from Hell Fire; surely He is All-Hearing of Prayer…11”
1. al-Iqba-l, vol. 1, pg. 26.
2. Fada-’il al-Ashhur al-Thala-thah, pg. 123.
3. al-KhiSa-l, vol. 1, pg. 127.
4. al-KhiSa-l, vol. 1, pg. 127.
5. al-Ka-fi-, vol. 2, pg. 241.
6. al-Anwa-r al-Bahiyyah, pg. 87.
7. ‘Uddat al-Da-‘i-, pg. 252.
8. Irsha-d al-Qulu-b, pg. 58.
9. Mustadrak al-Wasa-’il, vol. 3, pg. 313.
10. al-Ka-fi-, vol. 2, pg. 176.
11. Mafa-ti-h al-Jina-n, pg. 292.
These examples inform us that Alla-h’s (SwT) special invitation does not always concern material satisfaction. The food that Alla-h (SwT) serves in the aforementioned specific invitations are spiritual. In fact in some traditions the word ‘ta’a-m’1 is translated as spiritual food. Consider the following:
In chapter ‘Abasa [80:24], Almighty Alla-h says:
فَلْيَنْظُرِ الإِنْسَانُ إِلـى طَعَامِهِ
“Then let man look at his food.”2
Under this holy verse, the Shi’ite exegete Sayyid Hāshim Bahrānī, in his Tafsīr al-Burhān quotes a tradition narrated by Thiqat al-Islam al-Kulaynī in al-Kāfi [v.1, p.39, tr.8] from Imām al-Sādiq (‘a) as follows:
Zayd al-Shahhām asks Imām (‘a) what “man’s food” stands for in the verse above. The Imām (‘a) responds saying:
عِلْمُهُ الَّذِي يأْخُذُهُ عَمَّنْ يَأْخُذُهُ.
“It refers to the knowledge that he acquires, and its source.”
The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:
أَبِيتُ عِنْدَ رَبِّي، يُطْعِمُنِي وَيَسْـقِيـنِي.
“I spend the night near my Lord, and He feeds me and quenches my thirst.”
Commenting on this prophetic tradition, Sayyid ‘Alī Khān al-Madanī in his magnum opus, Riyād al-Sālikīn says:
ومعلوم أنّ طعامه (صلّى اللّه عليه وآله) عند ربّه ليس من جنس أطعمة الحيوانات اللحميّة، ولا شرابه من جنس هذه الأشربة، وإنّما المراد طعام العلم وشراب المعرفة.
“And it is known that the Prophet’s food near his Lord is not of the kind of animal food, nor is his drink like the drinks that we see before us. Indeed what is meant here is only the ta’ām (food) of knowledge and the sharāb (drink) of gnosis (ma’rifah).3”
‘Allāmah Majlisī also, commenting on this tradition says in his Oceans of Lights:
...ولا شك أن ذلك الشراب ليس إلا عبارة عن المعرفة و المحبة والإستنارة بأنوار عالم الغيب...
“…and undoubtedly that drink is nothing but Divine gnosis, love, and seeking illumination through the lights of the hidden realm…4”
The infinitive noun ‘shurb’ also, which is commonly translated as ‘drinking’ does not literally mean ‘to drink’. Drinking is only a material extension of ‘shurb’- which literally denotes “to convey to one’s inside”5 be that by drinking6 or otherwise.
The Holy Qur’ān for example, uses shurb for the polytheists who inclined to the worship of a cow after Prophet Mūsā (‘a) went to be the special guest of Allāh (SwT), in the following way:
) وَأُشْرِبُوا فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الْعِجْلَ بِكُفْرِهِمْ (
“…and their hearts had been imbued with [the love of] the Calf, due to their faithlessness.”7
Observe that the word ‘ushribū’ is employed which does not connote any kind of material intake of drink.
Imām al-Sajjād (‘a) in his supplication against Satan says:
أَللٌّهُمَّ وَ أَشْرِبْ قُلُوبَنَا إِنْكَارَ عَمَلِهِ وَالْطُفْ لَنَا فِي نَقْضِ حِيَلِهِ.
“O Allāh, saturate our hearts with the rejection of his works and be gentle to us by destroying his stratagems!8”
And in his supplication of ‘Arafah he (‘a) says:
وَأَشْرِبْ قَلْبِي عِنْدَ ذُهُولِ الْعُقُولِ طَاعَتَكَ.
“Drench my heart with Your obedience when intellects are distracted…9”
And Imām ‘Alī (‘a) is reported to have said:
إِنَّ لِلٌّهِ تَعَالـى شَرَابًا لأَوْلِيَائِهِ إِذَا شَرِبُوا (مِنْهُ) سَكِرُوا، وَإِذَا سَكِرُوا طَرِبُوا، وَإِذَا طَرِبُوا طَابُوا، وَإِذَا طَابُوا ذَابُوا، وَإِذَا ذَابُوا خَلَصُوا، وَإِذَا خَلَصُوا طَلَبُوا، وَإِذَا طَلَبُوا وَجَدُوا، وَإِذَا وَجَدُوا وَصَلُوا، وَإِذَا وَصَلُوا اتَّصَلُوا، وَإِذَا اتَّصَلُوا لاَ فَرْقَ بَيْنَهُمْ وَبَيْنَ حَبِيـبِهِمْ.
“Indeed Allāh has a wine for His friends, which if they drink, they get intoxicated, and when they get intoxicated, they get overjoyed, and when they get overjoyed they get pleasant, and when they get pleasant, they melt down, and when they melt down, they get pure, and when they get pure, they seek, and when they seek, they find, and when they find they reach, and when they reach, they unite, and when they unite there is no difference between them and their lover.10”
1. The verb ta‘ima literally stands for ‘he tasted’.
2. Holy Qur’a-n, 80:124.
3. Riya-d al-Sa-liki-n, vol. 1, pg. 280.
4. Biha- r al-Anwa-r, vol. 6, pg. 208.
5. al-Tahqi-q fi- Kalima-t al-Qur’a-n al-Kari-m, vol. 6, pg. 30.
6. EW Lane, EW Lane Arabic-English Lexicon, see under the root word shi-n ra- ba-.
7. Holy Qur’a-n, 2:93.
8. Ima-m al-Sajja-d (‘a), Sahi-fat al-Sajja-diyyah (Eng. Edition), sup. 17, pg. 63.
9. Ima-m al-Sajja-d (‘a), Sahi-fat al-Sajja-diyyah (Eng. Edition), sup. 47, pg. 185.
10. This tradition has been narrated by many authorities in mysticism such as Mulla- Ha-di- Sabzawa-ri- in his Sharh al-Asma-’ (pg. 534), Ayatulla-h Hasan Zadeh Amuli- in his Nu-r ‘ala- Nu-r (pg. 89), Mawla- Nara-qi- in his Ja-mi‘ al-Sa‘a-da-t (vol. 3, pg. 152).
Some mystics like Ibn al-’Arabi- consider the su-fi-s (those who possess the purity of heart and have attained proximity to God) to be the guests of Alla-h (SwT). In his Futu-ha-t al-Makkiyyah he says:
ألصوفية أضياف الله، فإِنهم سافروا من حظوظ أنفسهم وجميع الاكـوان إيثاراً للجناب الإلهي، فنـزلوا به، فلا يعملون عملاً إلا بإذن من نزلوا عليه، وهو الله، فلا يتصرفون ولا يسكنون ولا يتحركون إلا عن أمر إلهي، ومن ليست هذه صفته فهو في الطريق يمشي يقطع مناهل نفسه حتى يصل إلى ربه، فحينئذ يـكون ضيفاً...
“‘The mystics (al-sūfiyyah) are guests of Allāh, for they journeyed from the pleasures of their lower self and everything in sacrifice for the neighborhood of God; so they alighted in His neighborhood, and hence do not perform any action save by the permission of He, Whose neighborhood they alighted as guests, and that is Allāh; therefore they do not do anything, nor settle down, nor move save by the Divine Command; and one who does not have such a character, he is [still] walking on the way, crossing the springs of his self until he reaches his Lord, and then it is when he is a guest…’”1
1. al-Futu-ha-t al-Makkiyyah, vol. 9, pg. 416.
Almighty Alla-h is referred to in the verses of the Holy Qur’a-n with different names. Sometimes He is introduced with ‘Huwa’ (He)1, sometimes with ‘Alla-h’2, sometimes with ‘Rabb’3 and so on. All these names manifest a certain meaning, which if overlooked may hamper one from understanding the verse perfectly. Authoritative exegetes of Qur’a-n have alluded to this fine reality in their works4.
Likewise the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), who represent the guardians of Qur’ān, and appreciate its kernel, also employ every Divine Name for the purpose of referring to a certain Attribute of Allāh (SwT). For example, in the aforementioned prophetic tradition the Holy Prophet 7 said: ‘I spend the night near my Lord (‘inda Rabbī)…’ Here the name ‘Lord’ (Rabb) is specifically employed and thus it refers to the aspect of God’s Lordship, an extension of which is to perfect and train the human beings. In addition, it also alludes to ‘his state of perfection’ in particular. The first person pronoun “yā” in Rabbī (رَبِّيْ) alludes to this subtlety.
Therefore, the food and drink in the tradition must be in harmony with what would confer excellence to the Prophet (s). Obviously in his case we speak of higher excellence, for the path towards Absolute Excellence never ends.
With regard to Diyāfat Allāh, the name ‘Allāh’ is employed. The name Allāh is an all-comprehensive Name of God which exemplifies all His Perfect Attributes. That is why it is also known as al-ism al-a‘zam (the Greatest Name). Its origin is commonly known to be the transitive verb ‘alaha’ (he worshipped). Hence it signifies ‘The Worshipped One’ or ‘One Who is worthy of worship’. Consequently, the spiritual food in the month of Ramadān is one that makes us true worshippers of Almighty Allāh, those who exemplify all His Sublime Names (al-Asmā’ al-Husnā) in themselves. In one of his sermons, Imām al-Khumaynī alludes to this subtlety saying:
چه بگوييم در مقابل اين نعمت بزرگ الهی که ملتها را دعوت کرده است به ضيافه الله ضيافه الله با همه اسماء...
“How can we express our gratitude in return for this great Divine Blessing, for the nations have been called to be the guests of Allāh with all His Names…5”
In other words, the Holy month of Ramadān is a month of becoming ‘Abdullāh (an obedient servant of Allāh (SwT)). It is a month of adopting the etiquette of Allāh (SwT) in the language of tradition or adopting the Divine Color in the language of the Holy Qur’ān. The Holy Qur’ān says:
صِبْغَةَ اللٌّهِ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللٌّهِ صِبْغَةً وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدُونَ
“Allāh’s Color; and whose color is more pleasant than Allāh’s; and He alone do we worship.6”
And the Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:
تَخَلَّقُوا بِأَخْلاَقِ اللٌّهِ.
“Adopt the etiquette of Allāh.7”
In fact one of the wonderful supplications taught to us by Imām Bāqir al-‘Ulūm (‘a) is Du’a al-Mubāhilah, in which what we seek are the Beautiful Attributes of Allāh.
‘Allāmah Tabā’tabā’ī, the mentor of leading contemporary authorities in ‘irfān, would highly emphasize on reading this du‘ā, ‘for,’ he would say, ‘there is no mention of Paradisal men or women in it.’ Observe the following verses of this radiant supplication:
أَللٌّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ بَهَائِكَ بِأَبْهَاهُ وَكُلُّ بَهَائِكَ بَهِيٌّ… أَللٌّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ عَظَمَتِكَ بِأَعْظَمِهَا وَكُلُّ عَظَمَتِكَ عَظِيمَةٌ، أللٌّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ بِعَظَمَتِكَ كُلِّهَا…
“O Allāh I seek from You the kind of Your Brilliance (bahā’ikā) which is the Most Brilliant, and every Brilliance of Yours is Very Brilliant; O Allāh I ask You by Your Brilliance in its entirety….O Allāh I seek from You the kind of Your Greatness which is the Greatest, and every Greatness of Yours is very Great; O Allāh I ask You by Your Greatness in its entirety…”8
The contemporary mystic-scholar Ayatullāh Hasan Zādeh Amuli in his treatise ‘Light upon Light’ while enumerating the requirements of observing good manners in front of Almighty Allāh, says:
دگر ادب مع اللّه اقتضاء ميكند كه از او جز او را نخواهي كه اين عبادت احباب و احرار است. اين امر از بلند همّتى عبد است. كسانى كه دون همّتاند به وفق دنائت خود طلب دارند. يكي از مشايخ ما - رضوان اللّه تعالى عليه - ما را ترغيب ميفرمود به مثل دعاي سحر حضرت امام محمّد باقر عليه السّلام (اللّهمّ انّى أسألك من بهائك بأبهاه وكلّ بهائك بهىّ...) كه در آن بهاء و جمال و جلال و عظمت و نور و رحمت و علم و شرف است و حرفى از حور و غلمان نيست، اگر بهشت شيرين است، بهشت آفرين شيرين تر است.
چرا زاهد اندر هواي بهشت است چرا بيخبر از بهشت آفرين است
“Observing etiquette before Allāh also requires that you do not seek other than Him, for that is the worship of the free men (ahrār) and lovers (ahbāb). Such a supplication originates from the exalted aspiration of the servant of God. Those who are lower than this station, ask for their needs according to their lower stages. One of our mentors (may Allāh be pleased with him) would encourage us to read supplications like Du’ā al-Sahar [another name for du’ā al-mubāhilah] of Hadrat Imām al-Bāqir (‘a): (O Allāh I seek from You the kind of Your Brilliance which is the Most Brilliant…) wherein there is Divine Brilliance, Beauty, Majesty, Greatness, Light, Mercy, Knowledge, Nobility, but no mention about Paradisal damsels (hūr) or heavenly youthful male servants (ghilmān). If Paradise is sweet, the Creator of Paradise is sweeter.”
Why is the abstinent after Paradise?
Why is he oblivious of the Creator of Paradise?9
Later in the same treatise this great mystic quotes Misbāh al-Sharī’ah, a masterpiece on the secrets of worship attributed to Imām al-Sādiq (‘a), saying:
لَقَدْ دَعَوْتُ اللٌّهَ فَاسْتَجَابَ لِي، وَنَسِيْتُ الْحَاجَةَ، لأَنَّ اسْتِجَابَتَهُ بِإِقْبَالِهِ عَلى عَبْدِهِ عِنْدَ دَعْوَتِهَِ أَعْظَمُ وَأَجَلُّ مِمَّا يُرِيدُ مِنْهُ الْعَبْدُ وَلَوْ كَانَتِ الْجَنَّةَ وَنَعِيْمَهَا الأَبَدَ، وَلٌكِنْ لاَ يَعْقَلُ ذٌلِكَ إِلاَّ الْعَالِمُونَ الْعَابِدُونَ الْمُحِبُّونَ الْعَارِفُونَ، صَفْوَةُ اللٌّهِ وَخَوَاصَّهُ.
Imām al-Sādiq (‘a) said: “Indeed I called Allāh and He responded to me, and I forgot my wish, for His Response by giving attention to His servant when he calls upon Him is greater and more magnificent than what the servant wants from Him, even if that be Paradise and its eternal blessings, but none save the Knowledgeable Ones comprehend- those who are worshipful, the Divine lovers, Gnostics, Allāh’s choicest and special servants.10”
We can also say that since the Holy Prophet (s) was a perfect manifestation of an obedient slave of Allāh (SwT), this month is a month of getting closer to the Holy Prophet (s) too. Leading mystics have clearly stated that the Holy Prophet (s) is a manifestation of the Greatest Name of God - Allāh (SwT), which means that he manifests in himself all the Divine Attributes. In other words he is ‘Abd of Allāh. We also bear witness to this during every prayer:
أَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ.
“I bear witness that Muhammad is His Obedient Servant and Messenger.”
The Infallible Imāms of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) likewise personify the Divine Attributes. Imām ‘Alī (‘a) is reported to have said:
...نَحْنُ الأَسْمَآءُ الْحُسْنـى الَّتِي إِذَا سُئِلَ اللٌّهُ تَعَالـى بِهَا أَجَابَ...
“We (the Ahl al-Bayt) are the Most Beautiful Names of Allāh by which when Almighty Allāh is asked, He Responds.11”
And it is also reported from Imām al-Bāqir (‘a) that:
نَحْنُ الأَسْمَآءُ الْحُسْنـى الَّذِينَ لاََ يَقْبَلُ اللٌّهُ مِنَ الْعِبَادِ عَمَلاً إِلاَّ بِمَعْرِفَتِنَا.
“We are the Most Beautiful Names of Allāh, and without knowing us, Allāh does not accept any deed of His servants.12”
In a sermon which he delivered on the first day of the Holy month of Ramadān, Imām ‘Alī (‘a) while addressing the fasting ones said:
أَيُّهَا الصَّائِمُ تَدَبَّرْ أَمْرَكَ، فَإِنَّكَ فِي شَهْرِكَ هٌذَا ضَيْفُ رَبِّكَ، أُنْظُرْ كَيْفَ تَكُونُ فِي لَيْلِكَ وَنَهَارِكَ، وَكَيْفَ تَحْفَظْ جَوَارِحَكَ عَنْ مَعَاصِي رَبِّكَ. أُنْظُرْ أَنْ لاََ تَكُونَ بِاللَّيْلِ نَائِمًا وَبِالنَّهَارِ غَافِلاً، فَيَنْقَضِي شَهْرُكَ وَقَدْ بَقِيَ عَلَيْكَ وِزْرُكَ، فَتَكُونَ عِنْدَ إِسْتِيفَاءِ الصَّائِمِيْنَ أُجُورَهُمْ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ، وَعِنْدَ فَوْزِهِمْ بِكَرَامَةٍ مِنَ الْمَحْرُومِينَ، وَعِنْدَ سَعَادَتِهِمْ بِمُجَاوَرَةِ رَبِّهِمْ مِنَ الْمَطْرُودِينَ...
“…O you who are fasting, reflect on your affair, for surely you are a guest of your Lord in this month; observe how your attitude is during the night and day, and how you protect the members of your body from disobeying your Lord; and make sure that you do not sleep through the night and be heedless during the day, so that your month ends while your burden still remains on your shoulders, such that when the fasting ones are paid their due, you are among the losers, and while they enjoy prosperity in the neighborhood of their Lord, you are from the expelled ones…”13
Here one can see that the name ‘Rabb’ is employed, signifying that this invitation deals with training the human being so that he may attain his perfection.
If one was to carefully ponder over what is obligatory and highly recommended in this holy month, he would realize that Alla-h (SwT) out of His overflowing Mercy compelled the human beings to fast and encouraged them to pray so that they may overhaul themselves and start the journey to Alla-h (SwT). Fasting weakens the animal passions and thereby enables the spirit to focus its attention toward the spiritual realms.
In the aforesaid sermon, Ima-m ‘Ali- (‘a) enlightens us with guidelines that would enable us to appreciate and benefit from the Divine invitation of the Holy month of Ramada-n. Briefly, he tells us to be careful and not to waste its days in negligence (ghaflah) and its nights in sleep (nawm), for they are opportunities for us to elevate our spirits. If we are not able to appreciate the highest level of this invitation, which some mystics consider as ‘the banquet’, we should at least struggle to appreciate the lower levels, which in reality serve as introductory phases for the highest level. And the path towards appreciating the different levels of the Divine Banquet is fasting. The level of fasting, however, is what would determine the ‘level of Divine Reception’. Muslim ethicians classify the levels of fasting into three14:
1. Sawm al-‘Umu-m (the general fast);
2. Sawm al-Khusu-s (the specific fast);
3. Sawmu Khusu-s al-Khusus (the most specific fast).
1. Holy Qur’a-n, 112:1.
2. Holy Qur’a-n, 2:255.
3. Holy Qur’a-n, 1:2.
4. This can be tangibly observed in the excellent exegesis of ‘Alla-mah Taba-’taba-’i’s Tafsi-r al-Mi-za-n.
5. Sahi-feye Ima-m, vol. 18, pg. 497.
6. Holy Qur’a-n, 2:138.
7. Sharh Du‘a-’ al-Saba-h, pg. 87.
8. Mafa-ti-h al-Jina-n, pg. 184.
9. Nu-run ‘ala- Nu-r, pg. 80.
10. Nu-run ‘ala- Nu-r, pg. 81.
11. Madi-nat al-Ma‘a-jiz, vol. 1, pg. 556
12. al-Mukhtasar, pg. 129.
13. Fada-’il al-Ashhur al-Thala-thah, pp. 107-108.
14. Many scholars of ethics have adopted this classification. Those familiar with Arabic/Persian literature can refer to vol. 2 al-Mahajjah of al-Ka-sha-ni- and Asra-r al-Hikam (vol. 2, pg. 568) of Mulla- Ha-di- Sabzwa-ri-.
The general fast is the fast that is obligatory on every one who meets the conditions of fasting. Basically it is to refrain from eating, drinking, copulation, and all those things mentioned by the esteemed jurists in their books of Divine law. To abstain from some of the basic necessities is really a challenge, but its result is so rewarding that it can determine the eternal salvation of the human being. There is a universal law Almighty Alla-h mentions in the Qur’a-n which despite its brevity reveals a world of meaning. After excusing the traveler and ailing one from fasting in this holy month and allowing them to fast after the holy month, He says:
يُرِيدُ اللٌّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلاَ يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ
“…God desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you…”1
Although this clause is brought after a particular case, it should be known that it applies in every dimension of human life. The ambiguity that remains however is that ‘what is the definition of ‘yusr’ (ease), and whether ‘one who is healthy’ does not feel the pangs of hunger and thirst. To respond to this query, we should look at the following verse:
فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا. إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
“For indeed ease accompanies hardship; Indeed ease accompanies hardship.” 2
Most commentators, appreciating the lexical intricacy involved in the verse say that ‘difficulty’ is interlinked with two kinds of ease- ease in this world and ease in the Hereafter. Or, more accurately, ease in this world, and ease in the realm beyond; the latter, due to our limited comprehension cannot be fathomed, save by one who is endowed with the penetrating sight mentioned in the following verse of Sūrat Qāf:
لَقَدْ كُنْتَ فِي غَفْلَةٍ مِنْ هٌذَا فَكَشَـفْنَا عَنْكَ غِطَاءَكَ فَبَصَرُكَ الْيَوْمَ حَدِيدٌ
“You were certainly oblivious of this. We have removed your veil from you, and so your sight is acute today.”3
Some traditions clearly state that Paradise can be achieved (only) through the pains and difficulties of worship in this world. The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:
حُفَّتِ الْجَنَّةُ بِالْمَكَارِهِ، وَحُفَّتِ النَّارُ بِالشَّهَوَات.
“Paradise is enveloped by difficulties and Hell Fire is enveloped by desires.”4
Imām ‘Alī (‘a) is reported to have said in a lengthy tradition:
...وَاللٌّهِ إِنَّ صَائِمَكُمْ لَيَرْتَعْ فِي رِيَاضِ الْجَنَّةِ، تَدْعُو لَهُ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ بِالْفَوْزِ حَتّى يُفْطِرَ.
“I swear by Allāh, surely the fasting one among you enjoys in the gardens of Paradise, and the Angels pray for his success until he breaks his fast.”5
Observe the tone of the tradition: Imām ‘Alī (‘a) swears when he informs his true followers about their state when they fast. Many of those who sincerely fast do enjoy these stations in Paradise while they fast, but the curtains that veil them from perceiving the higher realms of existence do not allow them to appreciate this reality. If the curtains were lifted they would witness their exalted state while they still reside in this mortal world.
In the introduction to his anthology ‘Shahrullāh fī al-Kitāb wa al-Sunnah’, when explaining the kind of Divine Banquet that believers should anticipate in the holy month of Ramadān, Hujjat al-Islam Muhammadī Ray Shahrī quotes al-Risālah al-Majdiyyah of Shaykh Ridā al-Isfahānī, where the latter explains the kind of Divine Repast that the believers are invited to. At one point he says:
Indeed I have heard several times and repeatedly from one who is closest to me in terms of relationship and kinship6 saying: ‘ I was busy reciting the well-known Ziyārat Amīn Allāh’ in the holy sanctuary in Najaf, and when I reached the verse ‘wa māwā’id al-mustat‘īmīna mu’addah” (and the banquets of those who seek sustenance are ready) and reflected over its meaning and thought about it, I was suddenly made to see a banquet on which lay different kinds of food and drinks, which I had never thought of, and I was eating from them, and in the course of that state I was contemplating about an Islamic ruling. Surely it is an amazing state which renders one perplexed! The truth is that this is the reality of [Paradisal] food, which does not break the fast…’7
Al-Isfahāni later continues8 saying:
ولا تظنن أنّ تعبيرات هذا العبد هي من قبيل خيالات الشعراء وأوهامهم، أو من شطحيات غلاة المتصوفة، فحاشى أن أتجاوز لسان الكتاب والسنة، أو اتخطى في معتقدي غير ما جاء به الله والنبي وأمر به، وإنما المقصود هو قول الله نفسه في سورة "هل أتى" حيث يقول سبحانه: وَسَقٌهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ شَرَابــاً طَهُوراً
“Do not think that the expressions of this servant resembles the imaginations of the poets and their vain ideas or the theopathetic utterances (shatahiyyāt) of the extremist so-called sūfīs (mutasawwifah). I dare not transcend the bounds of the speech of the Book of God and the Sunnah, or adopt a course in my belief that is other than what Allāh and His Messenger brought and ordered [us to follow]. What I only mean here is the word of Allāh in chapter ‘Hal Atā’ where Allāh says:
وَسَقَاهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ شَرَابًا طَهُورًا
“…and their Lord made them drink a pure drink.”9
Therefore despite the apparent hardship of fasting, ‘the ease that it accompanies’ is inexpressible. Those endowed with deep insight also term hunger as the ‘the clouds from which rains of wisdom heavily fall’. In his poetic masterpiece of Islamic laws & their secrets called Nibrās al-Hudā, Mullā Hādī Sabzawāri says:
وَالْجُوْعُ لِلْحِكْمَةِ مُزْنٌ مَاطِرٌ.
“And hunger is a rainy cloud of wisdom.”10
1. Holy Qur’a-n, 2:185
2. Holy Qur’a-n, 94:5-6.
3. Holy Qur’a-n, 50:22.
4. Rawdat al-Wa-‘izi-n, vol. 2, pg. 421.
5. Mishka-t al-Anwa-r, pg. 170.
6. It is highly probable says Rayshari-, that he is referring to his father who was a well known saint in his time.
7. Shahrulla-h fi- al-Kita-b wa al-Sunnah, pg. 21.
8. Shahrulla-h fi- al-Kita-b wa al-Sunnah, pg. 21.
9. Holy Qur’a-n, 76:21.
10. Nibra-s al-Huda-, pg. 236.
The specific fast is a more meaningful fast. In this level, not only does the fasting one refrain from those things that he must avoid during the general fast, but he also ensures that every member of his body fasts. In fact, some traditions consider this fast as the fast1 anticipated from the believers. Observe the following narratives:
1. The Holy Prophet (s) is reported to have said:
رُبَّ صَائِمٍ حَظُّهُ مِنْ صِيَامِهِ الْجُوْعُ وَالْعَطَشُ، وَرُبَّ قَائِمٍ حَظُّهُ مِنْ قِيَامِهِ السَّهَرُ.
“How often is the share of one who fasts, [nothing save] hunger and thirst, and how often is the share of one who stands in prayer [nothing but mere] vigil.2”
2. Imām ‘Alī (‘a) is reported to have said:
أَلصِّيَامُ إِجْـتِنَابُ الْمَحَارِمِِ كَمَا يَمْـتَنِعُ الرَّجُلُ مِنَ الطَّعَامِ وَالشَّرَابِ.
“Fasting is to abstain from forbidden acts the way a man refrains from food and drink.3”
3. Hadrat Fātimah Zahrā’ (‘a) is reported to have said:
مَا يَصْنَعُ الصَّائِمُ بِصِيَامِهِ إِذَا لَمْ يَصُنْ لِسَانَهُ وَسَمْعَهُ وَبَصَرَهُ وَجَوَارِحَهُ؟
“What should the fasting one do with his fast if he did not protect his tongue, hearing, sight and members of his body?4”
4. Muhammad bin ‘Ajlān reports from Imām al-Sādiq (‘a):
لَيْسَ الصِّـيَامُ مِنَ الطَّعَامِ وَالشَّرَابِ أَنْ لاََ يَأْكُلَ الإِنْسَانُ وَلاَ يَشْرَبَ فَقَطْ، وَلٌكِن إِذَا صُمْتَ فَلْيَصُمْ سَمْعُكَ وَبَصَرُكَ وَلِسَانُكَ وَبَطْنُكَ وَفَرْجُكَ، وَاحْفَظْ يَدَكَ وَفَرْجَكَ وَأَكْثِرِ السُّكُوْتَ إِلاَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ، وَارْفِقْ بِخَادِمِك.
“Fasting from food and drink does not merely mean that the human being should not eat or drink; rather when you fast, then your ears, eyes, tongue, stomach, and private parts must [also] fast; and safeguard your hand and private parts and observe silence most of the time save from what is good to say; and be kind to your servant.5”
5. Imām Zayn al-’Abidīn (‘a) in his prayer on the arrival of the holy month of Ramadān humbly prays:
أَللٌّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَ آلِهِ، وَأَلْهِمْنَا مَعْرِفَةَ فَضْلِهِ وَإِجْلاَلَ حُرْمَتِهِ، وَالتَّحَفُّظَ مِمَّا حَظَرْتَ فِيهِ، وَأَعِنَّا عَلـى صِيَامِهِ بِكَفِّ الْجَوَارِحِ عَنْ مَعَاصِيكَ، وَاسْتِعْمَالِهَا فِيهِ بِمَا يُرْضِيكَ، حَتّى لاَ نُصْغِيَ بِأَسْمَاعِنَا إِلـى لَغْوٍ، وَلاَ نُسْرِعَ بِأَبْصَارِنَا إِلـى لَهْوٍ، وَحَتَّى لاَ نَبْسُطَ أَيْدِيَنَا إِلـى مَحْظُورٍ، وَلاَ نَخْطُوَ بِأَقْدَامِنَا إِلـى مَحْجُورٍ، وَحَتَّى لاَ تَعِيَ بُطُونُـنَا إِلاَّ مَا أَحْلَلْتَ، وَلاَ تَنْطِقَ أَلْسِنَتُنَا إِلاَّ بِمَا مَثَّلْتَ، وَلاَ نَتَكَلَّفَ إِلاَّ مَا يُدْنِي مِنْ ثَوَابِكَ، وَلاَ نَتَعَاطَى إِلاَّ الَّذِي يَقِي مِنْ عِقَابِكَ، ثُمَّ خَلِّصْ ذٌلِكَ كُلَّهُ مِنْ رِئَاءِ الْمُرَائِينَ، وَسُمْعَةِ الْمُسْمِعِينَ، لاَ نُشْرِكُ فِيهِ أَحَداً دُونَكَ، وَلاَ نَبْـتَغِي فِيهِ مُرَاداً سِوَاكَ.
“O Allāh, bless Muhammad and his Household; inspire us with knowledge of its excellence, veneration of its inviolability, and caution against what You have forbidden within it, and help us to fast in it by our restraining our limbs from acts of disobedience toward You and our employing them in that which pleases You, so that we lend not our ears to idle talk and hurry not with our eyes to diversion, we stretch not our hands toward the forbidden and stride not with our feet toward the prohibited, our bellies hold only what You have made lawful and our tongues speak only what You have exemplified, we undertake nothing but what brings close to Your reward and pursue nothing but what protects from Your punishment! Then rid all of that from the false show of the false ostentatious and the fame seeking of the fame seekers, lest we associate therein anything with You or seek therein any object of desire but You!6”
1. In terms of obligation, however, the Islamic Jurists unanimously consider the first fast to be sufficient. However, for those who worship Alla-h (SwT) to attain His proximity such a fast would not avail them save being absolved from their obligation.
2. al-Ama-li-, pg. 166.
3. Ibid., vol. 39, pg. 294.
4. Mustadrak al-Wasa-’il, vol. 7, pg. 366.